How can we build greater honesty between individuals and institutions across Australia?

What’s the problem?

Alt text Honesty between individuals is the essential foundation for the development of trust within and between communities, businesses, governments and societies.

Without this, armies, police forces, companies, schools, hospitals, the media and judicial systems would all cease to function in the way they are supposed to. Honesty enables people to rely on each other and builds social capital. Research links strong social capital to increased individual and community wellbeing.

Seven things you need to know

  • The good news is that levels of generalised trust in Australia have been relatively stable since 2006. This means there has been no change in the proportion of people who agreed that most people could be trusted.

  • This is consistent with the 2015 Scanlon Foundation national survey, which asked participants about levels of personal trust. They found that 45-55% agreed that ‘most people can be trusted’, at similar levels to the previous survey.

  • The Scanlon Foundation survey also found that the highest level agreeing that ‘most people can be trusted’ was indicated by those intending to vote Greens, with a Bachelor degree or higher, those whose financial status was self-described as ‘prosperous’ or ‘very comfortable’, and of English speaking background.

  • The lowest level of agreement was indicated by those whose financial status was self-described as ‘struggling to pay bills’ or ‘poor’, with education up to Year 11, with Trade or Apprentice qualifications, aged 25-34, and those intending to vote independent or a minor party.

  • In terms of trust in institutions, there is considerable difference between types of institutions. Lowest levels of trust were indicated in the federal parliament, trade unions and political parties. The highest level of trust was in hospitals and police, employers and the legal system.

  • Corruption has a corrosive impact on society. It undermines democracy and the rule of law, as well as distorting market forces and paving the way for organised crime and terrorism.

  • Although each has different functions, all states have agencies specifically established integrity agencies to counter corruption in the public sector. These include QLD, NSW, VIC, WA, SA and TAS. At the national level, there are no independent mechanisms supporting federal parliamentary integrity other than AFP investigations into criminal conduct.

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